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  1. #1

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    Questions on printing PMK pyro type negs.

    Hi out there, I have been working away for two years without outside help after returning from a 20 year photo layoff. Anyway as you can see by my sign in name. I have been working with PMK pyro developer. Things that I have noticed are, although I like the printing characteristics of the negs, there is an increase in grain. In fact I am thinking of not using PMK for 35 mm because of the limited enlarging I feel is acceptible. After rereading the book of pyro I am confused about developing 4x5 negs in open tanks with film hangers. I have done this always to now, and am concerned about uneven development. The other thing I don't quite understand is the discussion about problems printing VC papers with an stained neg. I have to my eye been getting good results. However I am printing with a Minolta additive color head to change VC contrast. This unit uses flash tubes for exposure. I am printing with additive blue, and green light, and have run contrast testing with a standard step wedge, and different paper developer combinations. Anyway what do you fell are the real advantages to pyro development if any?

  2. #2
    noseoil's Avatar
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    I'm curipus about what you have said about grain and PMK. One of the characteristics which I like about PMK is its ability to give sharp prints with smooth grain. Which developers have you compared PMK to, in order to draw this conclusion? If you are shooting a coarse, high speed film, it is the film which you are seeing, not the PMK. I tend to run slow films (Efke 25 & 100) so I'm not concerned with grain and PMK.

    I've found that PMK is subject to uneven staining and development artifacts if agitation and development procedures aren't followed exactly. Tank development in a "yankee" type of tank is very difficult, so I switched to trays and got better results. This shows up in clear bule skies, one of the conditions here in the southwest.

    The biggest drawback to the green-yellow stain can come in two places, high values and shadows. Since the color of the stain is affecting density of the film in more dense portions, there can be some masking of highlight values. The high values will be more readily seen by trying a sheet or two of graded paper, but your development times will vary slightly. Since you have tested with a step wedge, it would seem that you have sufficient contrast already, but what about high values? Is there sufficient separation in clouds?

    The biggest problem I have had with PMK is in the shadow areas. No matter what I did, shadows were always murky or muddy. They never had any "snap" to them and looked muted, a byproduct of general stain. General stain is a double edged sword, great for masking grain, bad for shadows. There is no way to avoid it with this developer.

    I switched to Pyrocat-HD this year and have been very pleased with overall sharpness and better contrast in shadow areas. With minimal agitation, the shadows have very nice contrast and better texture. Sharpness must be seen to appreciate how much better it can be with this developer and process. tim

  3. #3

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    Dear Pyromaniac,

    About 3 years ago I thought I would give "Pyro" a try to see if there was some easy improvement available for my negatives. My standard developer for sheet film was/is Xtol 1:1 and I only tried Photographer's Forumulary PMK so the testing was not exhautive of the available pyro formulas. Film choice (4x4, tray development) was also not exhaustive as I only tested Tri-X, TMX, HP-5 and BPF200.

    My results were that PMK produced very nice and printable negatives with all of the films tested. The BPF200 stained very well, Tri-X and HP-5 less so and TMX just a bit to my eye. Careful printing resulted in differences that I believe were due more to printing than to the negatives. (I apologize for that last sentence.<g>) I was, however, able to create prints that 3 other adults could not consistently tell apart. At least a year after my testing, an article in the May/June 2004 Photo Techniques yielded similar results.

    The above should not be taken as a criticism of PMK (as I wrote, it helped produce very nice and printable negatives), only a relation of my experience. Further experiments with different films, exposure or developing techique might change my opinion, but at this point I don't think it's worth the effort. I stayed with Xtol because of my perception of a reduced toxicity compared with pyro.

    BTW: Consider trying Xtol undiluted for 35mm. I like the grain/sharpness tradeoff, particularly for 400 and faster films.

    Neal Wydra

  4. #4

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    Let me answer your question in this way. Not all pyro developer formulations are the same.

    PMK and ABC pyro have a green colored cast to the stain that they produce since the desireable stain is proportional in nature, the effect is greatest in highest density areas. The green color will tend to have the effect of reducing contrast in the high values of the print. That can sometimes be a desireable thing and sometimes not.

    ABC Pyro is not suited to enlarging for the most part. The gradation is beautiful, the sharpness is incredible provided you don't want to make any print larger then 8X10 from a 4X5 negative.

    Pyrocat does work well for enlarging, in my experience, the grain is no more apparent to me then HC110. Beyond that since Pyrocat is a catechol based developer, it imparts a more neutral brown stain to the negative. This has virtually neutral impact for VC printing.

    What are the benefits of pyro developers? In my opinion improved sharpness and greater print highlight value separation.

    If you have not done so, it may be helpful to read some of the articles on pyro developers that are found on www.unblinkingeye.com

  5. #5
    c6h6o3's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Donald Miller
    ABC pyro have a green colored cast to the stain
    I have found this to be true with every film except 400TMax. ABC produces an almost imperceptible brown stain on it with virtually no fog. Very, very clean. Gorgeous combination.

    I've not developed any 400TMax in PMK.

  6. #6

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    I don't know if it's a matter of perception, or technic, but in the replies posted so far people appear to think pyro has either good smooth grain, or is somewhat grainy. Anyway for a reference I have mostly used HP-5 in PMK pyro. I shot some Agfa APX 100, and found that the grain structure is heavier than the HP-5 in smooth areas, such as clouds, but if the neg has a lot of detail you tend not to notice it. Also the stain is more green on the Agfa, than the Ilford. I did shoot one roll of HP-4 120 roll film, and it is very sharp with nice tonal graduations across the entire range of tones. It has full blacks, to slight variations in the white of a tee shirt in open shade lighting. Now what I am comparing it to, are the negs that I have developed lately in Xtol 1:1, and film that I shot in high school about 35 years ago. I bet that I souped them in Microdal-X or D-76 1:1 Another comparison are negs that my father shot in 1949, and developed in who knows what during occupation duty in Germany. The Ansco Supreme 35mm that he shot is not much grainier than the APX 100 in pyro. I find that the pyro negs have a long detail set in the high lights, and my shadows are good in film rated about 20% under manufactures specs. I seem to print most shots with a 1.5 or 1 grade VC rating.

  7. #7

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    I have switched over to pyrocat-hd. The color of the stain works better for me as I want to have dual purpose negs. With PMK I would suggest not doing the after stain. It is what mask the grain but drastically increases base. Give it a try and see how it works for you. John

  8. #8

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    I think PMK does a beatiful job with FP-4+. However, I use it because it's cheap and keeps just about forever. I find that developing 4X5 with tubes, like home made BTZS style, with constant rolling agitation is nearly fool proof. I don't follow the "rules" much when it comes to using PMK. I consider the after bath stage totally unnecessary. I use regular fixer, too, as I am not concerned about the stain, or diminishment thereof. FP-4+ negatives print beautifuly.

  9. #9
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    I too have had wonderful results with FP4+ and PMK, in multiple formats. The after-bath is actually now discredited; Gordon Hutchings himself has come out and said to stop doing it, it does more harm than good. Tray development is the trick for good, even, consistent development with 4x5 sheets. I'd consider the hangers and tanks if you were going to do semi-stand development, but then you risk the uneven spots in skies again.

  10. #10
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    I find 35mm PMK negatives to be eminently printable. I've not tried any other pyrogallol formulae, and the only pyrocatechin one I've tried is Pyrocat-HD. 35mm film is perfectly suitable for either chemical. Tri-X and HP-5 Plus are grainy, but that is part of their nature. I find FP-4 Plus negatives in PMK are beautiful.

    Interestingly, although Pan-F Plus doesn't stain much in PMK, it prints gorgeously. I'm not sure why, since the pyrogallol isn't doing much other than standard development (non-staining). Perhaps its high sharpness works to good advantage here.



 

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